What Is Career and College Readiness?

What Is Career and College Readiness?

City workers and first responders of Los Angeles gather in front of Los Angeles City Hall in protest of the city's required vaccine mandates on Nov. 8, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Christian Milord

Christian Milord

4/11/2024

Updated: 4/21/2024

Commentary
About this time of year, California high school seniors are thinking about what they will be doing this summer and beyond. If they don’t have plans laid out, life will happen to them anyway. Some will start working, while others will prepare for post-high school education that can lead to a career or occupation.
A recent article in the Orange County Register reported on data from the California Department of Education reported on the percentage of high school seniors that can qualify for either the California State or University of California educational systems. It found that approximately 52 percent of seniors qualified for these schools last year. The rate for Orange County seniors was about 57 percent, but the figures aren’t all that surprising.
So what is career and college readiness (or college and career readiness as it’s usually said)? It’s a mantra that became embedded in the Common Core pendulum shift a little over ten years ago. It was a goal set up by both federal and state departments of education as a guideline for public high schools to prepare students for higher education.
Part of the process focuses on teaching more Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) courses, as well as constant testing at the district and school site levels. Common Core mandates begin in elementary school and accelerate as students enter secondary school.
Educators were assured that Common Core would have less of an emphasis on testing than No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which ran its course from 2002 to 2015. That turned out not to be the case. Perhaps one reason for poor state test outcomes is the fact that by the time tests are administered in the spring, students are burned out from testing and don’t care about the results. Maybe half of students aren’t even interested in the academic track.
Naturally, one would think that after ten years of Common Core, a higher percentage of students would qualify for admission into either university system. However, it is much more difficult to gain admittance to the UC system than the CSU system or community colleges. However, if students are required to take several core subjects and solid electives, why are the numbers this low? Have academic standards been dumbed down, or are state tests not well aligned with the school’s curriculum?
As reported by the The Free Press, the Long Beach USD used nearly $2 million in taxpayer funds from 2019 to 2023 to pay the activist organization Californians for Justice for equity and diversity leadership training for its students and teachers, while the group paid students $1,400 each to take the training. The group has also funded similar initiatives in large cities in Northern California. Instead of indoctrinating students on what to think, shouldn’t the LBUSD be promoting an excellence- and success-oriented education that helps students thrive?
Over 40 percent of occupations require a college degree, according to the Burning Glass Institute but a significant percentage don’t require a bachelor’s degree. One wonders if a fixation on academics has deprived a large population of students of a readiness for life after high school. I can recall how secondary schools were different during my upbringing.
Most of the public, private and religious schools combined academic subjects with an array of arts, physical education, and technical courses. The technical courses were under the rubric of industrial arts. Courses such as agriculture, auto mechanics, cooking, drafting, home economics, electronics, metal shop, pottery, typing, woodshop, and others were offered. We designed and built birdhouses, dustpans, and footstools. Too many schools have discontinued trade courses since the 1980s.
Restoring many of the industrial arts courses would benefit not only academic track students but all the students who want to pursue a hands-on skills-based career. After graduation, they could perfect their skills at technical colleges in partnership with apprenticeships in local industries.
Workers handle parts for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as they come off the press at the FCA Sterling Stamping Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., on Aug. 26, 2016. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Workers handle parts for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as they come off the press at the FCA Sterling Stamping Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., on Aug. 26, 2016. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Indeed, hundreds of thousands of technical occupations are unfilled in California and across the nation. Television personality and trade advocate Mike Rowe has mentioned this undersupply a number of times. Most of these occupations are very well-paid positions with options for advancement and professional development.
Since there are dire shortages of skilled workers, and the value of an expensive woke degree outside of practical fields such as architecture, business, engineering, medicine, and teaching are dubious, why not place greater emphasis on trade courses in secondary charter and public schools?
While all students would be exposed to academic courses to develop resilient critical thinking, students who prefer the trade track could take more trade courses. Some European countries have done just this. Students are given an aptitude test in junior high or early high school to assess their strengths. Those with academic skills are directed on that track, while students with technical skills enroll in that high school pathway.
What should career, and college readiness look like in California? All schools would teach civics, objective history, STEAM courses, as well as reading and writing, rather than an obsession with academic trends. Several electives and technical subjects would be available, along with some schools preparing aspiring students for the armed forces. Testing mania would be replaced with a focus on classwork, homework, projects, research, and meaningful evaluations.
Career and college readiness ought to imply eliminating Marxist nonsense in favor of rigorous standards in all subjects, including building communication and critical thinking skills, real world experience, and character development. If a student changes his or her mind, they could shift from the academic pathway over to the technical track and vice versa. Experiencing an array of subjects and technical skills can help students discover what future profession suits them best.
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Christian Milord

Christian Milord

Author

Christian Milord is an Orange County, California-based educator, mentor, USCG veteran, and writer. He earned his M.S. degree from California State University, Fullerton, where he mentors student groups and is involved with literacy programs. His interests include culture, economics, education, domestic and foreign policy, and military issues. He can be reached at cnvmilord@sbcglobal.net

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